Monday, August 5, 2013

What Keeps You Writing?

Notice, I didn't entitle this post, "What made you start writing?" Beginning is fairly simple. Keeping at it is the tough part.

We begin writing for a number of reasons. Here are the most common I can think of. Maybe you can think of others.

  • We're good at it. It has always come naturally to us.
  • We believe we have a unique story to tell and we're eager to share it with the world.
  • Someone else has written about our experience(s) but didn't do the story justice. We know we can tell it as it deserves to be told.
  • People seem impressed if we says we're writers. We feel special to be among the few with a gift for language.
  • We believe it's a route to becoming rich or famous or both.
When we begin, we may believe that writing is our destiny, that we are uniquely suited to the solitary but glamorous (in our minds)  life of a writer.

Unfortunately, none of these beliefs and attitudes about ourselves and the writing process stand up once we begin.
  • Experience shows us that facility with language is a far cry from effective writing. We quickly discover that our skills need serious development and honing.
  • Our unique story, it turns out, is not so unique after all. There are only a few stories in the world and they have all been told by others long before we took up writing. The only thing unique about our story is that it happened to us.
  • Writing is difficult. Those who came before us may have failed to do our story justice, but we find that, in our hands, it fares no better at first. A long apprenticeship is required before our story comes to life.
  • While people may be impressed when we say we're writers, they become far less enthused when we don't produce anything worth reading for years. And eventually we stop proclaiming our specialness.
  • Almost no one becomes either rich or famous from writing. For every J.K. Rowling, there are a million unknown, unsung writers who are talented, skillful and deserving of an audience.
So why continue? 


There is nothing glamorous, or even very interesting about sitting in front of a keyboard for hours, alone and bleary-eyed, trying to get a scene right. 

And once we finish and send our efforts out into the world--no doubt dreaming of quick publication and TV interviews--we are in for a terrible letdown. Because the rejections begin pouring in, usually in the form of form letters, but sometimes with comments or suggestions which prove that the agent or publisher barely looked at our work. Or didn't read it at all.

And once we realize we will not be published any time soon, we may decide to take matters into our own hands and self-publish. Take it directly to the people. Let the readers have access to our work without the clumsiness of a middle man.

And that's when we learn that not only do we have to be good writers, we also have to learn how to market our work. We have to advertise it, beat the drums for it, sell it.


So, back to my original question: what is it that keeps us writing?

I have my own set of answers that I've developed over time. I'll share these with you next week. In the meantime, I'd love to hear what motivates you to stay focused and committed.



  1. For me it's a bit like being a photographer and walking around with a camera all the time. The more I do that, the more I notice what's there and how things change from one day to another.

    The more I write, the more I think about how stories emerge out of what's going on. And the more stories seem to offer themselves for the telling. So I start off with a list of things to write and as I finish the things on the list, what remains still to be written seems to have grown.

    1. I love this, Rob! I've noticed the same thing--the more I use my "writer's eye" the more I find to write about.

  2. I have this sick a twisted drive that has me writing everyday. I have tried to quite so many times, but there is just so much in my mind that wants to get out and be put on paper. I love writing because it is my way of communicating and expressing myself and because I like being on my own all the time, it is a natural paring.

    1. I know what you mean about wanting to get things on paper. Sometimes, I don't know what I think or how I feel until I write about it! That's true of journaling, but it also happens when I'm writing stories.

  3. I love the art of culling and manipulating words to form thoughts and images. I love playing with words to express the concepts in my head. It's like a big puzzle game for me sometimes-- what words can I use and how can I arrange them to inspire, motivate or create a thought or image in a reader's mind. Love that process.

    1. The love of words is a big part of it for me too. And, like you, I find I'm fascinated with the process of choosing the best way to express a thought or feeling or to create an impression on the reader.